When Christopher Lee Regis, Co-owner and CEO of Suntek Zero Emission Lawn Care, first met Hugo Neyra, the original owner of the business, the two entrepreneurs were busy building their respective businesses. At the time, Regis was running a franchise brokerage firm and Neyra was putting the pieces together and attempting to scale Suntek, then called Green Power Landscaping. Regis and Neyra stayed in touch and, two years after officially launching Green Power, Neyra needed some assistance.
"His wife, who was there to support his dream, was ready for him to get back to the workforce to support his family," Regis said. "He just wasn't able to grow the business how he wanted. That's when he called and asked if I wanted to buy it. He knew about my background in the franchise business and how fond I was of the concept. In December 2019, I agreed to buy the business. I retained Hugo as our Chief Technology Officer and also kept him on as a partial owner."
Even though Regis had zero prior experience in landscaping, he was extremely familiar with the world of franchising where the bulk of his time was spent connecting international clients with franchise opportunities in the United States. With his business savvy and understanding of what it takes to build a "franchisable" business, Regis got to work on rebranding and resetting the business model. He moved the company from Windermere to Lake Nona, where he established a virtual office, changed the name to Suntek and focused his attention on getting the word out.
"Lake Nona is a very forward-thinking and innovative city," Regis said. "That's why we wanted to bring our operations here. When it comes to technology, Lake Nona is drawing a lot of attention. It's one of the only cities in the country with self-driving commercial shuttles."
Regis continued, "After getting settled in and meeting other entrepreneurs and business owners, I got connected with Omar Hickman, a marketing expert and founder of Lake Nona Social. Omar is very plugged in and connected with the business community in Lake Nona. I initially wanted him to feature us through his various publications. He agreed, but also proposed a partnership where he would handle our social media and marketing. We reached an agreement for him to become our Chief Marketing Officer."
After working through several early challenges, including the theft of one of their trailers, which was stocked full of equipment, Regis and his team re-focused their collective efforts on building a business capable of disrupting an entire industry. By utilizing organic pesticides and electric equipment, powered by a roof-mounted solar panel on their work vans, Suntek is developing a system unlike anything the industry has ever seen.
"When people hire lawn care services, they don't really know if the products and tools being used are safe for their health," Regis said. "If they don't know if they're safe, they could get sick and not realize until it's too late. Our lawn care services are 100% organic and our tools are 100% electric, that ensures a healthy and safe yard for the entire family. Our customers love our Eco-friendly lawn care services. When you care for your lawn the earth-friendly way, everyone enjoys a healthier and longer life. I love that we are disrupting an entire industry by innovating while helping our families, friends and the planet."
Because of the ramifications of COVID-19, Regis and his team have put plans on hold to aggressively scale the company for now. Instead, they're focused on growing organically throughout Central Florida before pushing the national franchise model. The ultimate goal is to sell 1,000 franchises over the next five years.
"We're generating a lot of interest, especially in the commercial sector and with outside investors," Regis said. "I've had meetings with the City of Orlando along with an investor in Europe who's interested in bringing the concept there. Over the last five months, we hired a firm that created all of our franchise documents, processes and manuals. We're registered to sell our franchise model, but we want to make sure that the time is right to move forward with it. It's important that we're in a position to be able to support our franchisees and help them succeed."
Regis also shared that Suntek is in pursuit of the highly coveted 'AGZA Service Pro Certification', one of the most comprehensive grounds maintenance certifications in the world. Such a certification would position Suntek to compete for commercial jobs with counties and cities. According to AGZA, the certification 'verifies for clients that your crew and operations offer services using equipment and best practices with ultra-low impact regarding noise pollution, local air pollution, greenhouse gasses, and solid and toxic waste streams.'
What advice does Regis have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Know your why," he said. "Also, be resourceful and never give up!"